I’ve never met a pastor who believes he prays enough. Even those for whom prayer is their life’s breath tell me how they long to pray with more concentrated length.
Count me among those pastors trying to figure out how to pray with greater faith and length.
Quickly Moving it Along
On the third Monday of each month, our church gathers for corporate prayer. We spend seventy minutes in groups of three to four praying for all manner of things: emphases of Scripture, other churches, our Gospel Partners, the children in our congregation, various people in authority, and whatever else is pressing. After nearly three years of leading these meetings I’ve learned many valuable lessons. Perhaps the most significant one is how easy it is to pray for an extended period of time—provided you have structure.
One of our “3 Commandments for Corporate Prayer” is that to be brief. I’m sure we all have many stories of individual prayers dominating a corporate gathering. People come ready to pray and then leave thinking, “I didn’t get any time to pray.” Thus, each month I try to remind our people to keep each prayer brief. That way everyone gets to pray and pray often.
Last week we spent an hour praying through the Beatitudes. That meant each group spent about five minutes praying through each Beatitude. We started at 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. (our end time for prayer) arrived with astonishing speed. Multiple people told me afterward how amazing it was to find that praying for an hour through Scripture was so easy. Rarely does a Prayer Night go by without someone saying something similar. When the prayers are structured and pointed, we surprise ourselves how long we can pray.
Why Hadn’t I Thought of This Before?
I try to block off the 2 p.m. hour for focused prayer. My problem, like so many struggling prayer-ers, is a wandering heart. I have tried praying through various portions of Scripture, working through a prayer app on my phone, and my concentration seems to fly forth like a leaf in a tornado. What I’ve been doing just isn’t working. While reflecting on the encouraging responses from Prayer Night I had something of an Archimedian—eureka!—moment. “Why not,” I thought, “do something similar in my own prayer time?” (I wish it didn’t take me so long to try such a strategy, but God leads us patiently and perfectly. He apparently didn’t mean for me to try this until now.)
I pulled up Word and wrote down sixty different points for prayer. My thought was that if I prayer through all sixty I’d find extended prayer entirely possible. I broke down the list into the following categories:
- Personal Piety. I listed out seventeen different matters of personal holiness I long to grow in my life.
- Family. I’m praying here for my immediate family by name and then any extended family issues that need intercession.
- Pastoral Ministry. Here I’m praying for my preaching, evangelism, and faithfulness in my calling as a shepherd.
- Church. I put down various issues related to IDC’s congregational life that need daily prayer. This section also includes praying for our church’s ministries and Gospel Partners.
- Governing Authorities. I’m only trying to obey 1 Timothy 2:1–2.
- Operation World‘s Country-of-the-Day
- Matters of the Moment. This section is the most fluid of the bunch. For example, right now I’m for our Vacation Bible School that begins on August 1st. After next week this prayer point will rotate off the list.
I recognize the method isn’t for everyone. I thrive on order and routine, so this plan suits me quite nicely. Having not done it for any substantial period, I won’t make bombastic proclamations about having discovered a silver bullet for prayer. All I’ll say at this point is: I think I may have found the silver bullet. May you find something similar.